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Kenow Anniversary

Wednesday, 12 September 2018. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Kenow Anniversary

Photo by Brenda Shenton

By Shannon Robison

It’s Tuesday, Sept. 11, as I stare at the blank space on this page and contemplate the one-year anniversary of the night the Kenow wildfire rampaged through Waterton Lakes National Park and into the southernmost portion of the MD of Pincher Creek.

Last year I had a date planned with local naturalist Charlie Russell for 10 a.m. on the 11th of September. We had chatted informally a few times about the potential impact of the Kenow fire and were going to do a full interview at his home at the Hawk’s Nest that morning.

I had just hit the highway when he called to cancel. “Things are changing,” he said, “and there’s work that needs to be done.”

I didn’t turn around. Instead, I continued on to the Pine Ridge viewpoint — a spot where I had already spent many hours observing Kenow’s eerie smoky presence and would spend many more hours in coming weeks.

The wind blew ferociously and I made a short video to demonstrate just how wicked it was.

From there I could see the Hawk’s Nest and wondered how one prepares to leave their home with the knowledge it might not be there to come back to.

The view from the big rock I clambered up on has never been the same.

I wonder if Charlie knew just how much would have changed by the light of the next morning.

The Hawk’s Nest was spared. Sadly, Charlie passed away in May and we didn’t have an opportunity to finish our Kenow conversation.

On New Year’s morning I watched the sun rise from the same spot. The scars left behind by the wildfire were buried in the deep snow. There was, and still is, much healing ahead.

The right words are hard to find as I look at Brenda Shenton’s inspirational photo, simply titled “Kenow Heart.”

This image represents so much and is meaningful not only to me, who witnessed Brenda spying the perfect background for the white heart-shaped rock found in the blackened earth of the Jenkins Ranche near Twin Butte, but to all who have viewed it since that day.

It deeply touches our emotions as the rock speaks to the amazing show of community heart that shone so brightly as friends, neighbours and strangers worked together to recover, reclaim and rebuild that fall day and on so many others.

The rock isn’t perfectly shaped and, paired with the burned fence line, denotes the devastation and heartbreak Kenow left in its wake.

It’s said that hearts mend with time.

Kenow left many wounds, including some that are still painfully raw.

Tuesday’s anniversary no doubt reopened some hurts just as the Sage Creek and Boundary wildfires have put many on edge over the past month.

To those who were intimately touched by the Kenow fire, know that your community continues to stand with you.

To those who protect our lives, our livelihoods and the landscape that is so loved by those who live and visit here, know that your community is grateful.

If you’re free, please consider joining Jen Jenkins on Saturday for a wildfire preparedness presentation and supper at the Twin Butte Hall. Everyone is welcome and details are in the ad on page 7.

Jen was heavily impacted by Kenow and will speak about lessons learned through her personal experience.

Join her in a coming together of our community in education, celebration and thankfulness.